According to a senior US official, it was emphasized on Tuesday that the U.S. still wants to go through with the sale of F-35 fighter jets and armed drones to the UAE.
“They know that we are committed, and we are making sure that they have all of the information they need to move forward,” Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Jessica Lewis stated. Being questioned on why the deal isn’t happening and “they are starting to notice,” Lewis stated: “We are talking to them on a regular basis. They know that we are committed.”
Lewis was accompanied by Assistant Secretary of Defence for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities Mara Karlin at an Armed Services Committee hearing. An initial agreement was finalized by the Trump administration on January 20th 2021, shortly before Joe Biden was sworn in. The Trump administration wanted this deal brokered in order to get UAE and Israel to have normalized relations. This deal has been rebuffed by progressive Democrats in Congress. Clearly embittered as a consequence of this rebuff, the UAE made the decision to halt mediations over the $23 billion deal in December.
According to a press release by Aviation Week, the UAE has selected a Chinese manufactured trainer jet. With this decision, Emirati plans for purchasing the F-35 are being highly questioned. This all comes at a time when tensions between China and the United States are at a tremendous high. With the UAE potentially abandoning plans for U.S. defense purchases, it would open avenues for alliances to shift towards Chinese-centered geopolitical interests. The political turmoil that could arise would dramatically impact how Western countries operate in the Middle East for decades to come.